Falafel. I mean what even is it? Is it a bird? Nope—the National Aviary doesn’t even list one single bird species that begins with the letter “f.” A plane? Ummm, no, but I suppose it could be an interesting callsign. Right?
Falafel is traditional Middle Eastern street food made from chickpeas and other spices often served in a pita with tahini.
I have been a fan of falafel since high school. It is, I think, one of the first truly ethnic foods I ever had and enjoyed. Sure, I grew up on English marmalade straight from London (where my grandmother lived), and Æbleskiver made from my other grandmother’s Danish-family recipe but my only exposure to food from other regions came in the form of “Italian” spaghetti, “Mexican” tacos, and “Irish” stew. So when I was in high school and was in charge of my own lunches (not to mention most everything else, but that’s a story for another day) my friend and I started driving to this three-story market downtown that had a number of food vendors with small storefronts and chalkboard menus toting names of things I couldn’t pronounce hence, my love affair with Middle Eastern food was born.
I still remember how I’d order my pita, “With falafel, not lamb,” and my friend would go the opposite direction for “ A single baguette, double-cream butter on the side,” and we’d sit together at a small, Provincial-like table with metal chairs, overlooking a rather feisty fountain. It was an escape from the mundane, for sure. An escape from our often-pre-designed lives. It was where we just existed for the sake of existing, and the food … well … it shaped our thoughts, our smiles, our very breath. And so, while I can’t promise you that making falafel will bring you the same joy it does me, I hope you get lost in the flavor, texture and knowledge that there is much, much more to enjoy in this world than you have yet to discover.
PREP TIME: 20 minutes plus overnight refrigeration | COOK TIME: 10-15 minutes
- 1 cup chickpeas aka garbanzo beans
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 TBS fresh parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ cup gluten-free flour, I use almond flour
- 3-4 TBS canola oil, or I like using sesame oil but you do you
Place all ingredients into a food processor except baking powder and flour. Pulse until combined well, but you don’t want it too fine. Keep it course enough that it resembles dried rice or dried legumes. Slowly add baking powder and flour and pulse a few times until the mixture takes on a dries consistency and is easy to make into one large ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
When ready to make the falafel, remove mixture from the fridge and form balls using an ice cream scoop or something similar. Warm oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Dip balls in one at a time and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, turning until equally browned. Drain on paper towels, newspaper, or really anything semi-absorbent. Serve warm alongside your favorite greens, salad, or stuff into a pita with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and tahini sauce, or unflavored Greek yogurt. Enjoy!